Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union: Watching the World Pass Us By On Climate Change

Just as President Bush is preparing to deliver his State of the Union address, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is delivering a devastating report, what one top climate scientist calls "the smoking gun" of the human causes of global warming.

Bush and Vice President Cheney declared their stance on environmental issues in their very first year in the White House, when Cheney
dismissed conservation as nothing more than "a personal virtue." Since then, Bush has repeatedly downplayed global warming as a "theory," even hosting a secret meeting with one of climate change's leading deniers.

The Bush administration's lack of leadership has been crippling to America's competitiveness on everything from carbon trading to alternative fuels. As the Washington Post details today, American automakers are now
playing catch-up with the rest of the world on hybrids and other energy-saving cars:

"As soon as George Bush got elected, the U.S. car companies walked away from the partnership and didn't continue developing hybrids," [Clinton administration Energy Dept. official Joseph] Romm said. "And the Japanese did. As a result, they ended up the leaders."
Sebastian Mallaby had a great column yesterday detailing how far behind Bush is in the debate and how much things have changed in just the last year:
Eight months ago, when Gore's climate documentary was released, this state of affairs was inconceivable. Not only was Bush still a player, the case for climate change was widely doubted. Chortling climate-deniers, expecting an easy propaganda victory over the man whose energy-tax proposal they killed in 1993, greeted Gore's movie with glee. A group called the Competitive Enterprise Institute put out two TV commercials asserting that climate science is inconclusive. A House Republican hearing ridiculed a graph that features prominently in Gore's movie showing the world's temperature puttering along in a steady state before shooting upward like the handle of a hockey stick.

But this time around, Gore has proved a tougher adversary. His movie has grossed an astonishing $24 million, not counting foreign sales; the accompanying book has spent 29 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. His Republican opponents have lost control of Congress. And the Competitive Enterprise Institute has lost the patronage of Exxon Mobil, which decided to stop financing climate lies and start discussing carbon regulation.

Today's Post article on the corporate environmental initiative Mallaby mentions in his column here, more details at Raising Kaine, and my review of an Inconvenient Truth is here.

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